Motorworks (21st Century Toys)
M4 Sherman Tank, Ultimate Soldier 32X series Kit No. 22002
by Cookie Sewell
15 parts (3 major subassemblies, 6 separate "detail" parts,
2 vinyl figures; 2 screws; 2 vinyl tracks); price $14.95, only sold via
Advantages: Perfect "first model kit" for a young child, solid
enough for "play value" as well as detailed enough for many
collectors; also available as a "built-up" version
Disadvantages: Not a true "kit"; where was stuff like this when
we were little?
Rating: (under 8) Highly Recommended
(over 8) Recommended
Recommendation: for kids and many adults alike
While many iconoclasts spend their time bashing this or that kit for missing
one or two details, or whining as a kit of their favorite subject has
a "horrible" 2 mm error in its length, one thing which should
be observed by all of us is this: where are the "starter" or
"entry" level kits today that we can start our children on?
Many of us - no ages mentioned - began in the 1950s with a wealth of
then-new kits that beckoned to us from store shelves, even down at the
neighborhood "Mom and Pop" grocery. Aurora kits for 49 cents
to a mighty one dollar of everything under the sun, Revell matching them
stride for stride, and Airfix coming out with – wait for it –
common scale kits! Anyone of us with a dollar from a favorite aunt or
several weeks allowance could pick up some of these styrene beauties and
slap them together in an afternoon (hey, who needed paint?)
My first armor kit was an Aurora M46 Patton the year it came out. I
never did get the little caps on right so the wheels never worked, but
hey, it had four guys that came with it and it was a TANK, so who cared?
I can't recall how many Tootsietoy trucks it blew up before becoming a
victim in its own right.
But as kits got more expensive – and kit reviewers like me showed
up to start raining on the manufacturers' parade – kits got more
and more accurate but more and more complex. It's one thing to give a
kid a model with about 100 parts or less and a simple method of construction,
and another to give him a kit with 700 parts that 50% of adults cannot
correctly assemble. With that high a cost to hours spent on the hobby
or hours spent versus frustration level, it's easy to see why kids are
less and less interested in modeling as a hobby.
I spotted these models in a Wal-Mart last year but did not manage to
get one before they sold out. This year I saw the same kits back again
and picked one up to see what it presents to the younger modeler. I was
quite surprised at what I found.
First off, this is essentially the same offering as 21st Century Toys
(a Chinese import company exclusively under contract with Wal-Mart) makes
as a completed model in a "window" box with the figures in their
"action" poses. All this "kit" does is provide in
a semi-knocked down form so that "dad and lad" can put it together,
together. Not a bad concept, that.
The model is not bad either. It represents a standard production early
hull M4 tank with early turret and the M34A1 gun mount, albeit fitted
with late-model ("upswept") return roller brackets, T48 rubber
chevron tracks, and applique armor on the hull and turret. That beats
the old Revell kit, that looked like a Sherman but had nothing in common
with any specific prototype.
No sponson liners are included, so it is at least as good as any of the
Tamiya modern M4 series kits.
The model measures 181mm long x 82.5 mm wide x 84mm to the top of the
commander's hatch, which makes it about 1/32 scale. That's better than
the old Tamiya 1/30-something kit.
What you get when you open the box are a bunch of bags of parts or assemblies.
The hull, turret and belly pan are shipped as nearly complete but separately
bagged. Each is painted (albeit in a hurry) and complete as is, less a
handful of small detail parts for the lower hull. "Assembly"
consists of snapping the six extra parts in place, slipping on the tracks,
snapping the hull sections together, and then using the two screws to
hold them together. My own example had a stiff-fitting turret and an underscale
(and off-axis) hollow bore to the main gun.
Some license has been taken. The hull hatches are overside and rectangular,
mostly to ensure the crew figures will fit in them. Tools are molded onto
the hull and quite high in relief, but at least in the right places.
The model has been painted in the European camouflage used by most of
the 1st Army Group tanks with black stripes over olive drab. The crew
figures come painted as well, and consist of a seated driver with tanker's
helmet and a standing commander figure with steel pot. Both the figures
and the "kit" stowed on the tank have been washed in black so
they are essentially partially weathered. The model does come with 10
packs, 2 crates, 2 oil cans, 2 gas cans, 2 spare wheels, 3 sections of
track, and 3 helmets as extra "kit" stowed on the tank. Markings
consist of generic stars.
The tracks and wheels roll, the turret traverses and the gun elevates
and depresses, the hull and turret hatch both open, as do the ejection
port door and the engine air intake access hatch (the front one, not the
one over the engine itself).
Overall this is actually a pretty impressive model, given its limitations.
There are a lot more in this family; I am not sure how big it gets, but
I have seen the usual Tiger I and 88mm kits, plus others such as a US
halftrack, M24 Chaffee, Wirbelwind and Moebelwagen, Sd.Kfz. 7 8 ton halftrack,
and even an early model Pzkw. III. If you want to get kids interested
in armor and armor modeling, this seems to be a painless way to go. (But
you HAVE to go to Wal-Mart, as they seem to have a "done deal"
on distribution in the US.)